Curious about Behavioral Health EMR? Here are some things to consider as you gather information:
Definition of Behavioral Health EMR
EMR = Electronic Medical Records, also known as EHR, or Electronic Health Records. EMR is an electronic version of traditional paper charts and often includes electronic variations of session notes, including assessment and progress notes. Because mental health EMR is the client chart, it usually includes intake documentation, the treatment plan, patient demographics, insurance information, and other items contained within the patient record.
However, because each program is different, it’s important to confirm exactly what is or isn’t included if you’re shopping for a system. The term “mental health EMR” is broad and covers a spectrum ranging from a simple Word or PDF version of session notes – to multi-faceted Practice Management Systems that weave together every element of an agency’s daily operations, from the client intake process to financial reporting.
Benefits of Behavioral Health EMR
Data / HIPAA Security
Inarguably, the biggest benefit to electronic records is added security. Most Behavioral Health EMRs are not just Word or PDF versions of notes: they are secure programs that require unique passwords for each user and usually include elements of data security and/or HIPAA compliance.
Regardless of an individual program’s hosting, security or HIPAA protocols, it’s far easier for someone with malicious data breach intent to access paper records than to hack into an electronic system. While that percentage of risk may be changing, one of the biggest pros of behavioral health EMRs is that they typically protect client & agency data far more effectively than traditional paper charts.
Another strong benefit to Behavioral Health EMR is that it typically increases efficiency. Again, every program is different, but if you consider how much easier it is to process charts, notes, and other facility documents that have been typed in a standard format vs. handwritten without protocols or framework, that alone can save significant amounts of time.
Because Practice Management Systems integrate the various aspects of an organization, they can greatly reduce duplicate entry. For example, a Behavioral Health EMR might give you the ability to take a credit card payment from a client at the front desk, as they are scheduling their next appointment; this information is then automatically available in the invoicing portion of the EMR, meaning that the biller doesn’t have to hunt for patient co-pays.
In one fell swoop, you can schedule the next session, print the client a statement of their current balance due, receive alerts for any renewals needed (ie, “we need you to sign an updated consent to treatment”), and communicate with the billing team that you’ve received a payment from the client on this date, for these visits. Depending on the size and framework of your agency, this elimination of duplicate data entry can greatly increase agency efficiency.
Enhanced Client Care / Reduction of Error
Another benefit to Behavioral Health EMRs is that they can dramatically reduce medical error. While there typically aren’t as many medications in mental health practice, psychiatric drugs can be very powerful and need to be carefully monitored for effectiveness, intensity, and possible interactions (both drug to drug and drug to allergy).
A robust Behavioral Health EMR might provide: a daily status report from your clients, through the patient portal; detailed graphing about prescription effectiveness; and automated safeguards for medication interactions. These type of safeguards protect both the clinician and the client.
Tips for Evaluating Behavioral Health EMR
If you’re looking for the right Behavioral Health EMR for your agency, the best starting point is to identify what processes you want to change. For example, are you dedicated to your external billing vendor and don’t want to stop using them for invoicing? Then you’ll need a system that allows you to utilize digital versions of what you do want to change – such as notes, treatment plan, calendar – but also gives you the ability to integrate with your current biller. Keep in mind, however, that every additional system used increases the potential for workflow backlog.
Sometimes, keeping the systems you’re currently using makes the most sense; other times, you’ll need to take the plunge and incorporate one electronic program that integrates everything, releasing those outgrown systems you might be clinging to. “If nothing changes, nothing changes.” 🙂